Thursday, July 31, 2008

This is a Test

Tuesday evening, as I was feeding the granddogs, Neal arrived home from work. But not alone. With him was a 7 month old basset hound puppy.....Otis. Now what, in tarnation, possessed him to add to my misery by adding a THIRD dog to this otherwise happy home? He is either testing me, or just doesn't have a clue how I agonize over the well-being of the two uninvited Houdini's of whom I have unwittingly become the primary caretaker. To my relief, Neal quickly made it clear that this was a short-term situation. Some guy at work just needed babysitting services for a few days.

Wednesday morning I went out to check on/feed these critters, and NONE of them were in their yard. OHHHH, WOE IS ME! They had managed to pry the chain link away from the corner of the gate and escape after dark. I jumped in the Pilot and began my usual trek up and down and around 97, to no avail. When I returned, I discovered that Otis had spent the night in the game room with Jeff--he had scratched on the door around 1:00 a.m. Fortunately, around 9:00 a.m. I received a call from one of the regular destinations of George and Gracie, the Davidson residence. (I'll start calling her first whenever they come up missing.) Jeff and I managed to fix the gate (bottom right corner in the picture). I dare not say that it is now inescapable...I've already had to eat my words. I do hope Otis returns to his owner soon, as Jeff is becoming attached. Hmmm, do ya think they would notice if we returned George in his place?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Yes...I Am Crazy, Too!

I have to eat crow today. Yesterday, I commented on my sister's blog titled "Are We Crazy?" about the lengths they go to for their dogs. I don't even OWN dogs, but somehow have taken over the care and feeding of my two granddogs, George and Gracie. Loyal readers of my blog know that it has been a never-ending battle trying to keep them from digging under the fence and gallivanting all over creation. Alan said that when we first moved here a year ago, we were known along 97 as "the people that bought the old Reed place." Then we became known as "the people that fixed up the old Reed place." Now we're more commonly known as "the people at the old Reed place that can't keep their bassets in the yard." Well we think we have finally built an inescapable fence that Neal calls "Ft. Knox." (He says the next step is hiring an armed guard to walk the perimeter of the fence 24/7.)

This morning Neal and I spent almost an hour removing ticks from George and Gracie, who have conveniently rid themselves of their flea & tick collars. I guess it's been close to a month since the last tick treatment. Of course, if they'd just stay in our sprayed yard, we wouldn't have this problem. Anyway....I made a trip into town to purchase more tick treatment and new collars. Mom caught the process on camera, proving that I, too, am crazy. You're not alone Sandra.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 7...Guadalupe River

Friday, June 27

Slept til 8:00 this morning--YEAH!!!! After a McDonald's breakfast we drove to the Guadalupe River, rented tubes and stepped foot into the frigid waters of the spring-fed river. Some of the "kids" (including Ted and Roger) bought water cannons, just in case some of us didn't get wet enough! <:o Thanks, guys. Parts of the river were slow and relaxing and provided a much needed respite from the past week of labor in the hot sun. However, there were areas that required some maneuvering to stay in the flow, and even a few rapids to conquer. We had a great time and it was over way too soon. The prospects of the long drive home in the van were looming large. After all our "together time", the discussions on this drive were a little deeper and more meaningful than those of seven days ago. We managed to take turns stretching out and getting some sleep and arrived safely home around 11:00 p.m.

True to our vow of knowing more Spanish before our next trip, some of us have already enrolled in a conversational Spanish class at TCC in the Fall. Hasta la vista!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 6...Cornerstone

Thursday, June 26

This morning we had to be packed, loaded and checked out of our rooms by 7:00 a.m. Our 4th and final day on the job and Lita is STILL WORKING. Incredible! I started the work day with Janet, pounding bent metal bars to be used for wrapping re bar. Not a bad job...we took turns swinging the hammer and found it to be very therapeutic--plus we found a nice place in the shade for our task--BONUS! Janet didn't trust me and preferred hammering while I held the bar...porrrrr que? (That was a "rolling r"...Michelle can't roll her r's....but she can roll her can I...we learned a lot about each other on this trip...but I'm rambling...or should I say rrrrrambling...okay, okay, enough.) Just as we were getting a good rhythm going, the whole gang was summoned for "brick brigade." Stacks and stacks of cinder blocks had to be moved from the front of the property to individual piles spaced out the length of the site. The troops lined up and started passing. The job was done in quick order and Janet and I returned to our little place in the shade, only to find someone else had stolen our assignment. What's up with that?! Well, guess it's back to the rock pile for me. That's fine, I've got this job down to an art. It was an emotional moment when Glenn Elliott had the honor of laying the cornerstone.

At lunch, Rick Owens talked to the group and expressed his gratitude for all that we had accomplished. He reminded us that the results of our work, along with many other volunteer groups, and of course, our magnificent God, would endure for years to come. After lunch and many group photos, we headed to the border, which this time was a relative breeze compared to our first experience. Paco met us there with Dewey's trailer and after the luggage exchange, we placed our sights on New Braunfels, Texas. We arrived at Motel 6 very, very late and the girls again allowed me the first shower. They went to mingle with the other young'uns from Ft. Gibson, Dewey and SS and I went to bed! Have no idea when they came back to our room...I just know they were in their beds when I woke up at 8:00 the next morning. (I'm such a conscientious chaperon.)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jacob's 4th Birthday

We interrupt this Mexico Mission Documentary for an important news bulletin. On July 17, 2008, Jacob turned 4 years old.

My how he's grown! Four short years ago we could not have imagined what an incredible little boy he would become. The big birthday bash isn't until tomorrow evening, but today he spent his special day with Nana, Grandpa Smith and Grandma Smith. When he arrived this morning, hot blueberry bran muffins were waiting for of his favorite treats at Nana's. After breakfast, we went outside and played baseball. He is able to hit the ball when pitched to him, and is a very fast runner! We were soon hot and sweaty, and he was ready to go for a swim. Nothing would do but that Grandpa and Grandma get in the pool as well. They obliged...what grandparents won't do for their grandkids! He had lots of fun swimming, shooting Grandpa with his noodle/pool thermometer gun and playing with a tiny frog he found. After lunch dishes were put away he couldn't wait another minute to go to the Aquarium. "Where is the Aquarium? Is it far, far away? They have toys there! Gwama, Gwampa, you wanna spen'a night wif me?"

After the Aquarium (and yes, he talked Nana into buying some sea creatures for him) we walked along the Riverwalk and stopped in for ice cream at the Marble Slab. He chose a cone dipped in sprinkles and vanilla ice cream with sprinkles mixed in. I got a cup of "cake and cookies"--birthday cake ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough and oreo cookies mixed in. As soon as he saw the big chunks of cookies in mine, he decided we needed to trade. Yep, we IS his birthday after all.

On the way home, we stopped at Miss Ann's and picked up Lauren. Jacob fell asleep and I carried him in the house and put him on my bed. He slept for two and a half hours--until his Mom arrived with pizza and cupcakes for supper. Presents from Grandma & Grandpa, Aunt Linda, Uncle Jeff and Papa & Nana were opened and he and Lauren entertained us the rest of the evening with their singing and dancing.

Whew! What a busy day. Happy birthday Sugar Bear!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 5...The Rock Pile

Wednesday, June 25

Day 5 of the trip--day 3 of manual labor. And I'm still able to walk upright--amazing. The whole mission team decided to start an hour early this morning and leave the site an hour early so we could fit in some good ol' tourist-type shopping.

I began the day with a little shoveling, then resorted to a relatively easy, sit-down job--removing old rusty nails from the wood of a shed that had fallen down. We were re-using the wood to use as concrete forms and the old nails were being pounded out straight for re-use. Nothing is wasted. What a novel concept! My job in the shade didn't last long and I was, again, handed a shovel. Lots of concrete work going on now and they needed buckets and buckets of gravel and sand to mix the concrete. My job--relay bucket thrower and gravel shoveler. (I'll have to update my resume.) As 5-gallon buckets were emptied into the cement mixer, they were literally THROWN to me, then I threw 4 of them back to the sand pile to be refilled, and kept 2 for myself to fill with gravel. I must say, I'm a good bucket relayer (except for the one that I caught with my knee...ouch!) and at least there was a few minutes of rest between filling to allow the cement mixers to do their thing. It was during one of those "in between" times, as I was leaning on my shovel, looking out at all the busy workers--helping each other, taking care of each other, laughing together and even some of the wheel barrow runners singing--that I found myself brushing away tears...again. Fortunately, the 100+ temperatures made it difficult to tell tears from sweat.

The "old" folks, taking a break and surveying their accomplishments.
"descanse por un momento" (rest for a moment)

As mentioned before, we left the job site early for a shopping trip. No shower...just a few swipes with a baby wipe and we were good to go. I'll bet we were the dirtiest, stinkiest, sweatiest tourists those shopkeepers had ever seen. I bought a "Monterrey" t-shirt, and a couple of bottles of vanilla, but other than that, there really wasn't much to see, want, or buy. The real excitement wasn't until after we returned to the hotel. Ted (oh great keeper of the passports and visas) had somehow LOST the famous BLACK BAG that held these precious items. He remembered having it while he was sitting on a bench outside one of the shops, then didn't think about it til we got back to the hotel. So, accompanied by the Hotel Manager, Ft. Gibson's bus driver, and his daughter, Kristen, he drove back to the market (about an hour away). As news spread throughout our group, panic also set in. I remember saying, "well, someone has hit the jackpot--13 U.S. passports--hot commodity in Mexico. There is NO WAY we will ever get them back." I was already making plans to call Neal, tell him where the copy to mine was, and have him fax it to the hotel. Then I said, "no....there is a way.....let's pray that God leads an honest person to that bag!" Within 15-20 minutes of that prayer, we saw Ted come strolling down the hallway, black bag in hand. He quickly assured us that all the passports were there, as well as money he had in the bag. Praise God!!!! He had gone to that bench, went inside the shop and the shopkeeper said someone had found it and given it to him. So it went through the hands of TWO honest people.
Joel and Justin had the privilege of choosing the restaurant for tonight's dining pleasure. They wanted "authentic" Mexican cuisine and got directions to a place within walking distance of the hotel. As we approached the restaurant, we could see carcasses hanging in the window. Are you kiddin' me? We're eating THERE???? The carcasses were goats, cooking over an open fire. As we perused the menu, everything seemed to be made of goat. The waiter took orders and when he came to me I politely said, "Nada, gracias."

The evening devotional was by the pool, as some other group had reserved "OUR" conference room. But it was still good, just a little harder to hear the speaker. After devo, we headed back to our rooms to pack up, since we're leaving the country tomorrow immediately after lunch, directly from the job site.
The Spanish phrase for today is "VIDA DIGNA" conveying the idea of "Living a Life Worthy." Eph. 4:1 says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." "VIDA DIGNA"

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 4...Back to Work

Tuesday, June 24

I worked super hard the first day, because I was sure my body would resist this new torture and I wouldn't be able to get out of bed this morning. Much to my amazement, and thanks be to God, I was up at 6:00 and pulling on my work clothes and looking for my leather gloves. Several of us met for breakfast in the hotel lobby, preparing for another day on the chain gang. Now that we have an idea of what our day will be like, we are not shy about eating hearty. Today, instead of digging holes and trenches, we are filling in holes where concrete has dried. Dig a hole....fill the hole, hmmmm. I also took a break from shoveling to measure and cut rebar for awhile. At about 11:00 we can small our lunch cooking--YUMMMM! Wow, that last hour before lunch is a KILLER!

Our cooks! Senoras y senoritas bonita!

Como se dice "supervisor"?

"Just a little more on the left, Janet....good job, Michelle."

After dinner at Applebees, we enjoyed a wonderful devo with Ft. Gibson & Dewey. At the end of the devo, Edgar and 4 other Mexican brothers and sisters sang for us in beautiful harmony. Even though I only caught a word here and there, it was still very inspirational and, to no one's surprise, I had to wipe the tears from my eyes...probably a combination of exhaustion and spiritual awakening. The Spanish phrase for today is "Para El" -- "For Him". After raising all the money to get to Mexico, and paying for our stay, and paying for our supplies to build a church building in Santa Monica, and giving money to keep Rick Owens' ministry successful, it could be easy for us to forget why we are on this trip, or maybe take some of the credit for "our" success. "to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus..." Eph. 3:21 "PARA EL"

I'm starting to feel guilty about the 5-star hotel where we are staying. The people living in the vicinity of the job site live in--what should I call them--they're not even shacks--just some tin and wood, no running water, no air conditioning. Many sleep on their roofs to stay cool and, in fact, there is a mattress on the roof of the temporary building at the job site. Wonder who's sleeping there tonight? However, we get to take hot showers, flush the toilets and adjust the temperature in our rooms to a cool 68 degrees, then crawl between fresh, white, soft linens. Muchos gracias, Dios.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 3...Get to Work!

Monday, June 23

The Gran Hotel Ancira provided a delicious, hot breakfast every morning, with the richest, most flavorful coffee I've had since Louisiana. We were up, fed, and in our work clothes in time to leave the hotel at 8:00. Everyone loaded up and began the hour drive to Santa Monica, where we would be working on the construction of a church building. Edgar, one of the locals from Santa Monica, was wisely loaned to us as a guide, just in case we got separated from Ft. Gibson's bus--because we didn't have a clue how to get there. Have I mentioned the traffic and crazy drivers in Monterrey? Apparently there are no traffic laws in speed limits, at least none that are enforced. If the road you're driving on has 3 paved lanes, there may be 5 lanes of cars, as they use medians, shoulders, etc. Ted tried to stay glued to the back of the bus, but whenever he would allow more than 24 inches of space, a little car would squeeze in between us. The bus driver seemed to forget that we were trying to follow, 'cause he would veer off at the last second to exit, leaving us on a road going "who knows where." But Edgar got us there in one piece and we got the first look at our mission. Holy guacamole! This building is gonna be HUGE! The land had been purchased by the church at Ft. Gibson, as well as a few other private donors. This building will be the largest so far, and will be 2 stories. Much residential construction has begun in close proximity to the property, so it is believed that once the building is complete, it will fill up fast and another will be needed a few short miles away. It is still in the beginning stages and we will be working on the foundation.

Okay, time to go to work. Somehow, I had envisioned myself in the role of "chaperone," "supervisor," "water-girl." So why are they handing me a shovel? It soon became apparent that they expected everyone to really "WORK." I was put on boundary or stem wall ditch-digging detail right away and found myself constantly hitting rock. Time for the "pickers" to come in. Some of the big, strong, young guys picked the rocky soil and we came in behind them digging the trenches. By noon the temperature was above 100 degrees and I had drank more water than I usually do in a week. Someone had been smart and brought towels that we soaked in our ice chest then wrapped around our necks. Ahhhhhh. Feels so goooood. At 12:00 it was time for lunch. The local women (and men) had prepared a wonderful meal for us and we didn't even care what the meat was.....we ate like we hadn't eaten in days. Homemade tortillas, refried beans, noodles and sauce and of course, the mystery meat. Also homemade salsa (mui picante) that burned my lips right off, but I kept going back for more. In the afternoon, I worked on stabilizing the forms for cement around the piers (more shovel work) and donned the rubber gloves to help scoop cement into the forms. Throughout the day I became acquainted with several of my brothers and sisters from Dewey and Ft. Gibson and also met Loddy (sp?) the preacher at Santa Monica, George (Loddy's little boy), and our cooks, Hilda, Elizabeth, Benny, and Rosa.

Finally, quitting time. On the drive back to the hotel Edgar (who does not speak English) worked hard to communicate and interact with us (mostly with the young girls!). Then we started singing some songs and when he recognized the tune, he would sing the song in Spanish.

Back at the hotel, I collapsed on the floor (way too dirty to get on the bed of white linens) and waited for my turn to shower. Oh, it felt so good to get the shoes off. How do toenails get dirty with socks and shoes on????

We walked across the street for a lovely dinner before meeting with Ft. Gibson and Dewey for our evening devotional. The Spanish word for today is "PODER" which conveys the idea of "power." "...according to His power that is at work within us..." Eph. 3:20

After devo, seven of us decided to take an adventure and try to find a Walmart. We had gotten directions, but when we had traveled awhile and still didn't see it, we stopped to ask directions from a motorcycle "policia". He began trying to direct us, then said "Follow me." We had a police escort to Walmart. Bueno.

Back to the hotel where we all slept like babies.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 2...Crossing the Border

Sunday, June 22

I had my alarm set for 7:20. One of my girls' alarms went off at 6. I'd forgotten how long it takes teenaged girls to get ready. After a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed for the border. At Immigration, we were met with a few set-backs. Even though we would be in Mexico less than seven days, and were DONATING our time, the Mexican authorities demanded that we purchase work visas. These are good for 180 days, so I guess if we were inclined to go back in the next few weeks we'd be good to go. We also exchanged our dollars for pesos, then began the waiting process for them to give us the green light. Since Ft. Gibson had jumped through these hoops many times before, they had warned us to make sure and have a title for the trailer that we were using to transport our luggage. Dewey was also pulling a trailer and the authorities were not happy that they had a COPY of their title, not the original. Then they found that we had a carbon copy of our van rental agreement, not the original.....bad news. Waiting....waiting....waiting...then all of us were chased out of the cool, air-conditioned Immigration building accused of "loitering." Oh boy, we get to wait this out in the hot van! More was approaching two hours...hey, why don't we pray about this? Great idea. About 10 minutes after the "Amen" Ted came strolling toward the van. He said, "I don't know what happened, but all of a sudden they changed their minds and said we could enter." Hmmm. We know what happened. Sadly, Dewey was not allowed to bring their trailer so we unloaded their trailer and crammed their belongings into ours. Paco, the preacher at Nuevo Laredo, Mexico had left services and come to meet us at the border. He assured the authorities that he would take care of the trailer until our return. Finally, we're on our way again. We arrived at church in Nuevo Laredo in time to hear the last 10 minutes of Paco's sermon (which we couldn't understand, anyway), then sang "I Will Call Upon the Lord" and "God is So Good" in Spanish and English. Afterwards we were greeted by the congregation and tried our best to communicate. We pulled out a bag of Beanie Babies to give to the children who were enthralled--no interpretation needed. Back into the van and more driving--about an hour to a rest stop where we all ate--our group from SS made sandwiches (we're cheap) while the others tried to order food at the restaurants. By the time we arrived at the beautiful Gran Hotel Ancira in Monterrey, we were too tired to go eat and ordered pizza. Right...Dominoes in Mexico. Bueno.

The Bible study text for our devos was Efesios 3:20-4:1. The thought for today is..."Todos" --"everything" or "all-encompassing." In the first three chapters of Ephesians, Paul talks about the spiritual blessings that are found in Christ. He gives thanks for a God who gives us everything we need (1:23). He acknowledges the fact that we are made alive through Christ, and that without Jesus we are all dead in sin (2:5). He tells us that we are "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (2:10). Ephesians 3:20 says, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine..." TODOS

Independence Day

Forty-two people descended upon our house yesterday to celebrate the 4th of July. The forecast included chance of thunderstorms, but I was thankful that the meteoroligists got it wrong again, as it turned out to be a beautiful day. The pool was the big hit for the afternoon, then grilling began around 6:00. Plenty of hamburgers, hotdogs and ribs for everyone, accompanied by baked beans, veggies and dip, chips, watermelon, cantaloupe and more desserts than I can list. More swimming and a few firecrackers before dark. When the real fireworks began, we were surrounded on all sides with beautiful displays. Being on a hill, we had the perfect view in all directions. Sorry, no pictures from yesterday, since I was busy being hostess.

Thursday night Jeff, Neal and I took Lauren and Jacob to Skiatook for their big fireworks display. Since the lake is still high, the concert and fireworks were at the airport which is just across the road from Neal's shop. So we took popcorn and juice and met up with several of Neal's new co-workers for a front-row view of all the festivities. We sat in the beds of pickups and Jacob made a new friend, 6-yr. old Colby, who had all kinds of fun toys and flash lights that he shared with Jacob (or Jake, as he called him). We left before the show was was getting late...past Lauren's bedtime...and we had forgotten to take her blankie and binky. She started saying, "mama...home" over and over, so we decided we'd seen enough.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Mexico Mission - Day 1...Driving

Saturday, June 21, 2008
Thirteen of us from Sand Springs joined 15 from Dewey, OK and about 44 from Ft. Gibson, OK on this trip to Mexico. Even though Janet made the comment today--"these Texans won't let us in just 'cause we're from Arkansas"--we really are all from Oklahoma (that must have been a previous life, Janet). Knowing we had a long drive ahead of us, we voted to leave EARLY. Amazingly enough, we had the rental van and trailer loaded and were leaving Sand Springs around 4:00 a.m.
After thirteen hours of off-and-on semi-sleep, travel Yahtzee, eating breaks, "circle of life" stops (that's when you stop to go to the bathroom and buy a bottle of soda or water, which leads to another bathroom stop and more soda and water, etc., etc.) and endless adjustments of the temperature and vents, we arrived in Laredo, Texas. We checked into the Marriott, cleaned up and went to Logan's Steak House for dinner. Afterwards, some went shopping, while others opted to go back to the hotel. Since I'm rooming with three 18 & 19 yr. olds, I decided this might be my only chance at the bathroom, so I went back to the room and had a leisurely shower. I'm rooming with Michelle (18), Kiley (18) and Amy (19)--"my girls." Michelle must have drawn the short straw, as she is my bed partner. By the time they returned to the room, I was already in bed and had begun to doze off. But I still heard Michelle laughing at the wall of pillows I had built between my side and hers.

Kristen...riding backwards and reading...I'd be sick as a dog.

Dare-devil Terri risks her life after Joel reads a warning on her pillow, "Do not use for sleeping purposes. For decorative use only." Oh, Terri, you're a brave, brave woman!

With very little room to stretch out on the seats, Kiley takes to the floorboard.